Zinedine Zidane: Real Madrid weaker without Alvaro Morata but won’t sell Cristiano Ronaldo

The Frenchman was speaking ahead of his side’s pre-season clash with Manchester United in America

Real Madrid are weaker for the loss of Alvaro Morata, Zinedine Zidane admitted on the eve of two clashes against Manchester United in little over two weeks, but will not let Cristiano Ronaldo go and plans on strengthening the squad that won a Champions League and La Liga double last season.

Much less is at stake on Sunday when Madrid face former coach Jose Mourinho at Levi’s stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers, for a friendly after a summer in which relations have been strained between the two clubs over a number of frustrated deals.

Ronaldo’s reported desire to leave the Spanish capital as he faces accusations from prosecutors of defrauding the Spanish taxman to the tune of 12.95m put United on red alert over the possibility to bringing back the four-time World Player of the Year to Old Trafford.

However, Real president Florentino Perez’s public defence of Ronaldo in the days that followed, despite stopping short of offering to pay any multi-million fine, has calmed the situation.

Ronaldo is not with the Madrid squad in the States having been given extra time off following the Confederations Cup and due to the fact he will appear in court over his tax troubles on July 31st.

“He will be back with us on the fifth (of August),” said Zidane, just three days before Madrid and United meet again in the UEFA Super Cup in Skopje, Macedonia.

“I look at and listen to things like everyone else, but what matters to me is what he wants to do with Real Madrid and I believe he is going to stay.”

However, a lack of match fitness may cause Ronaldo to sit out the showpiece occasion against his former club in just over a fortnight.

“He is on a well-deserved holiday after the year we had. He needs to return bit-by-bit and build up his minutes but I am sure he will get up to speed quickly.”

Ronaldo’s absence will be felt all the more as Madrid are another striker short after selling long-term United target Alvaro Morata to Chelsea for £70m.

Morata could easily have been lining up in Santa Clara in United red, but is instead headed for Stamford Bridge after United beat Chelsea to the signing of Romelu Lukaku, forcing the English champions to look elsewhere for a replacement for Diego Costa.

Real are also expected to complete a £30m deal to sell back-up right-back to Danilo to Manchester City in the coming days. Having also offloaded James Rodriguez’s considerable salary and secured a two-year loan fee from Bayern Munich, Madrid’s transfer dealings so far this summer are £70m in the black despite the recruitment of two of the brightest young talents in Theo Hernandez and Dani Ceballos.

“We saw what Morata did last season, he played very well and offered us a lot,” admitted Zidane, who had tried to convince the Spanish international to stay despite his limited role towards the end of last season.

“For the moment Alvaro has gone and we are a striker short.”

With money in the bank, Madrid look best placed if anyone is to break Monaco’s resolve this summer to land Kylian Mbappe. Zidane is a huge admirer of his compatriot and tried to lure him to the Bernabeu as a 14-year-old.

But any deal would bring complications beyond merely the huge financial package it would take to land Mbappe. A year out from the World Cup, the 18-year-old has made it clear he doesn’t want to replace Morata’s role as merely back-up to Real’s protected ‘BBC’ front three of Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Karim Benzema.

French sports daily L’Equipe went as far as to claim Zidane has told Mbappe one of the ‘BBC’ would be sold to accommodate him, but the longer the summer runs without a concrete move for Mbappe the more remote a possibility that becomes.

“He is a very good player and is wanted by many clubs,” added Zidane. “We’ll see what happens, we have until the 31st (of August).”